Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Unplugged from our Instincts

I have a love/hate relationship with technology. I love how it has simplified communication and practical arrangements, and I hate how deeply it has infiltrated every area of our lives. We rely on it at best, and are obsessed by it at worst. I am the first to admit that I love what Facebook and e-mail bring to my life, but now that I have an iPhone, I detest that I feel like checking it all of the time when I should be talking to my kids or looking at the world through my van windows when I'm parked somewhere.

I don't want to be a slave to the very things that exist to make my life easier. I have to remind myself that I am in control of how many times I check e-mail and Facebook. It's not my laptop or my iPhone's fault. It's mine. I must choose to unplug, and to wait, and to engage with people instead of electronics.

One of my students in the last writing class talked about taking her children to a remote cabin for the entire summer, where they have no internet or television, and they find pure joy in playing with rocks and sticks outside at the water's edge. She talked about how hard it is for them all to withdraw from technology, but how rewarding they find their time away, and how hard it is to leave it behind and re-enter our fast paced and stressful society. She used the phrase, "unplugged from our instincts" to describe our current culture, and those words have been rattling around in my head for weeks now.

I don't want to unplug from my instincts. I want to take what is good and convenient about all of the technology we have available to us, and leave what is lethal and imprisoning. I want to take back the control of the devices in my possession, and plug my own instincts back in. I have a choice to check my iPhone and laptop obsessively, or to set aside times to respond to them and other times to ignore them.

I have no earthly idea what the balance should be or how to uphold it, but I'm going to make it a higher priority in the coming days and weeks. If I face this struggle as a thirty-eight year old, how much worse is it going to be for my children, who will never know anything other than this plugged-in electronic world? I must show them that there is a balance to be found and upheld, even if it flies in the face of the culture around them.

There are hard choices to be made, but if I don't live this example out for them, where will they turn in order to find a working example to follow? Technology is here to stay, and will continue to move at the speed of light, and change so quickly it becomes impossible to keep up with it. I recognize that as a fact. But I can create boundaries to fence it in and not let it overrun my human relationships, which are a million times more important than a beeping device. I want to keep my instincts sharp, and not trade who I am and what I value for the ability to be reached 24/7.

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